The BIG Family History Fair 2015

The BIG Family History Fair returned to St Ives, Cambridgeshire, this weekend, and I learnt a load about the significance of manorial records in genealogy, and let the moths out of my wallet at the Bedfordshire Family History stand.

This weekend I have been at The BIG Family History Fair 2015, at The Burgess Hall in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire.

The Big Family History Fair 2015 banner
The Big Family History Fair 2015 banner flapped in the breeze to usher you in.

It a one day (on Saturday) with free admission, that attracts family history fans from the area. There’s a series of talks and a wide range of trade stands from the likes of local history societies, the Guild of One-Name Studies, historic postcard companies, and some familiar faces in the genealogy supplies market like Maxbal Genealogy and My History.

This is my second visit here, and the first show here since 2012’s.

After enjoying a cuppa in the gym café next door, I arrived about 20mins in, and paid the £2 for my first lecture ticket. After a quick initial wander around, and the pleasure of bumping into blogging and twitter comrade Jane Freeman, I made my way upstairs for my first lecture at 10:30am.

Philip Saunders, project officer of the Manorial Documents Register at the National Archives, began his talk ‘To The Manor Born: What Manorial Records Can Tell You About Your Ancestors‘.

Manorial records are, as yet, an un-tapped source for me. I know they’re out there for a wide number of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire manors, but I’ve been busy contending with the swathes of other records available to me. I’ll get to them eventually.

However, Philip’s talk was expertly delivered for a complete novice like me – he took time to explain how and why documents existed, and illustrated his talk throughout with examples – most of which were contextually relevant and being from Cambridgeshire or Huntingdonshire.

Philip Saunders talk
Philip Saunders showing us how a folded little file from the Manorial Records actually contains a LOT of information when you open it out.


He showed us how what looks like a small folded piece of paper, can actually open out to give you dozens of names, dates, and other bits of information that is otherwise going un-detected in genealogy research.

His work has been to bring a register of the manorial records for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire to The National Archive website, and he showed us how to find some of these already for neighbouring counties. Apparently Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire  data will start to appear on the site soon via the ‘Record Creators’ tab of advanced search.

I was amused to see that one document even carried what was a 16th century drawing of a Huntingdonshire labourer struggling with his crutches!

Having finished his talk, I returned downstairs, this time for a proper browse of the stands.

Stands at The Big Family History Fair 2015
Hall one of two, was home to some familiar genealogy brands and societies.

It was hard to get anywhere near the postcard stands (I like finding advertorial postcards of one of my Ely relative’s bakery, and I’m looking out for some of the now defunct village pubs that my family have run over the generations).

The one stall that was definitely on my list was the Bedfordshire Family History Society stand, and I was pleased to find their team very helpful. Having checked my now quite large pile of Parish Register CD-roms the night before, I had two parishes on my list: Leighton Buzzard, and Wrestlingworth.

Thankfully they had both, and after walking back into St Ives to get some cash (sadly no card machines available, but at least there was free wifi this time!), I decided that actually I’d buy both CDs at a total of £35. After all, it’s a bank holiday weekend, and what else have I got to do? 😉

Of course, as soon as I’d got home, I started to explore, and so began my journey back into the 17th century to find my Truelove, Goodsole and Miller ancestors.

If you haven’t heard from me by Tuesday morning, give me a nudge!

The BIG Family History Fair returns in 2015

The BIG Family History Fair is set to return, again to St Ives’ Burgess Hall, on 2nd May 2015.

I’m very pleased to have spotted that The BIG Family History Fair is set to return on 2nd May 2015.

Returning to St Ives’ Burgess Hall, Cambridgeshire, after a 3 year break, The BIG Family History Fair will bring together experts, local genealogy and history societies, and companies with products to help you with your research.

One of the halls at The Big Family History Fair 2012, St Ives.
One of the halls at The Big Family History Fair 2012, St Ives.

2012’s show was busy – with expert talks full, and so this show will hopefully expand on that success, as well as prove to be just as successful.

More information can be found nearer the time at the Huntingdonshire Family History Society’s website.

With Who Do You Think You Are? Live scheduled just a few weeks before in Birmingham, this comes as a welcome treat.

See you there!


Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair 2013

Blogging from The Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair 2013, held in Girton (North Cambridge) on 26th October 2013.

Last Saturday I attended The Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair.

I think this was the first time that the Fair had taken place, and I was really impressed to see the variety of lectures and stands.

The venue – Girton Glebe School was easy to find and there was plenty of parking for those out-of-towners like me, and with bus stops for those more local. I had a strange flashback of my own primary school, when I found myself sitting on a small red plastic chair in one of the classrooms (although it seemed odd to be doing so whilst drinking a cup of tea).

I didn’t get to take many photos, as the venue was smaller and felt more condensed than other shows I’ve been to, so instead, check out these great photos from the Society’s Facebook Page.

Above: The Cambridgeshire Family History Society stand stood in the entrance with a warm welcome for all visitors. I picked up a couple of cdroms of the Society’s register transcriptions (non-conformists – which have already yielded some great info, and a Quarter Sessions transcript – which i’m yet to explore).

As someone who has been to Who Do You Think You Are? Live a few times, and other Fairs, this one follows a similar style (why fix it, if it isn’t broken?), with a hall with supplier stands, and then ticketed lecture sessions in smaller rooms.

A view of some of the trade stands at the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair, 2013
A view of some of the trade stands at the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair, 2013

At the stand in the photograph above, I was lucky to find two postcards from Ely – both showing the shop that my Cross family owned and ran in Forehill (I recently referred to it in my blog and newspaper article about the Brown and Co (Ely) Ltd Shop). I chose one (£6!) and I’ve now added it to my collection. Part of me wishes I’d also bought the other one (£8.50!) as it was more of an advertisement card.

A postcard advertising the Cross' bakery on Forehill, Ely
A postcard advertising the Cross’ bakery on Forehill, Ely

Last year, the Huntingdonshire Family History Society held The Big Family History Fair in St Ives, but the Society later confirmed to me that it would not be taking place again this year. Hopefully it will be back for 2014!

I was fortunate to get to talk with the Huntingdonshire Family History Society, at their stand, where they kindly looked up my Franks family. Sadly we couldn’t quite find them, but it seems that the parish that absorbed the now near-abandoned Coppingford village, may have retained the records. One day…. ONE DAY!

I found it a little odd for there to be no Suffolk Family History Society, given that they represent the neighbouring county. I overheard a couple of others talking about this too.

I was pleased to catch social historian (and self-confessed non-family-historian) Tom Doig‘s lecture on identifying Victorian photographs. His approach to this topic sounded odd to start with when he stated that you should never try to date photographs via the clothing seen in the photo. He shared with us his knowledge of the history of photography itself (something that I once studied with the Open University) – and explained the importance of looking at the style of the frames and mounts, and also the composition of a photograph as a method of dating it.

Freshly plied with data CDs, a monumental inscription joke from Carol Noble on the CFHS stall, my Cross postcard, and Tom’s advice on photography, I returned home and instantly began searching through my records and photos again.

An enjoyable time, and one that I hope to repeat again soon.

No ‘Big Family History Fair’ for 2013

Huntingdonshire Family History Society crestHuntingdonshire Family History Society has confirmed that there will be no ‘Big Family History Fair’ in 2013.

Last April, I visited the fair, which packed both car park and the St Ives venue with visitors for a day’s worth of genealogy and local history shopping, networking, and expert talks.

The glimmer of hope from the contact at the Society about a repeat of hosting it again, is that they ‘may do again in the future’ – perhaps in 2014?

Meanwhile, the Society continue to run their regular programme of events – which cover a broad range of local history topics.

The Big Family History Fair 2012

The BIG Family History Fair 2012 – the Huntingdonshire Family History Society event took place this weekend.

This weekend I went along to the BIG Family History Fair 2012 at St. Ives, Cambridgeshire (alright, Huntingdonshire).

The BIG Family History Fair banner
The demand for that ample free parking was a little underestimated.

The event, which was organised by the Huntingdonshire Family History Society took place at The Burgess Hall and soon packed out their car-park. Fortunately for me, my gym is right next door, so I arrived early for a workout before heading nextdoor for some serious browsing amongst the crowds.

For those of you not in ‘the know’, Huntingdonshire stood as an administrative county until 1974, when it was absorbed by its neighbour and became a district of Cambridgeshire. The up-shot of this is that researching the records means you need to remember that pre-1974 the county is Huntingdonshire, and its records are held in Huntingdon.

The event took place across two floors – two halls brimming with stands from those now familiar companies and societies like S&N Genealogy, the Cambridgeshire Family History Society,  the Fenland Family History Society, and My History. Upstairs were a series of talks organised by the hosts.

As you entered the venue, the team from Family History Magazine were by the door, and everyone was handed a Huntingdonshire Family History Society bag containing a free issue of the magazine (plus some leaflets, a Hunts FHS notebook and pencil – nice!)

Shoppers at family history stalls
Just a few of the stalls – a mixture of societies and commercial companies.

I went along to Maureen Nicholls‘ free ‘Illustrating Your Family History’ talk – a captivating and fun 40 minute talk on ways to bring interest to those data heavy trees, charts and documents that the genealogist spends their time producing. Some great ideas came to light – including the reminder that when you’re lost for a photo of YOUR ancestor doing something – show a representative image of the types of schools, costumes, work that ancestors lived through – instead of admitting defeat because you don’t have a photograph of THEM in that scenario.

Maureen’s delivery was as engaging as her ideas, and she offered an occasional glimpse of her own research – an aunt who died on-board the doomed SS Princess Alice, her family tree cross-stitch that went to the House Of Lords, and her penchant for jellied eels (yuck!).

Potton parish church, Bedfordshire
I bought the Potton parish church registers on CD-rom.

I’d already decided what my purchase of the day was going to be, and so having achieved the largest ‘tweet-up’ that Huntingdonshire has probably ever known by meeting up with fellow twitterer Jane ‘@RamblingGenes‘ Freeman – who proudly showed me her new Flip-Pal Scanner (see, told you I wouldn’t tell anyone you bought one), I moved over to my target – the Bedfordshire Family History Society stand which was busy but very helpful and where I managed to purchase the Potton parish registers on CD-rom.

I was really pleased to see the range of companies and societies represented here – it was always going to feel different from a Who Do You Think You Are? Live, but it seemed to be well organised and attended.

The goodie bag!
The goodie bag!

I did feel the venue was a bit hot and stuffy, and the bar-staff seemed a little surprised that people wanted drinks and food at the drink and food bar – definitely not the organisers fault here though.

The added bonus for me was that it was very local, and of course FREE to attend!

I look forward to next year’s show – hopefully it will one day be on for a whole weekend, or on for longer than 10am-4pm with lots more useful genealogy talks.

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